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Joseph Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
La fée d’amour, morceau caractéristique, op. 67 [18:11]
Suite for solo violin and orchestra op. 181 [28:55]
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor op. 161 (1870) [28:55]
Tobias Ringborg (violin)
Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera/Andrea Quinn
rec. Umeå Concert Hall, 12-15 June 2007. DDD
STERLING CDS10752 [76:52] 
Experience Classicsonline

Raff's vast musical legacy continues to be unfolded and this disc is the latest revelation. Its unifying element is the specification of violin solo with orchestra.

We start with La fée d'amour. It's a three movement piece with the delicacy of Berlioz, the dash of Lalo and the romantic fluency of Saint-Saëns’ concert-pieces. Ringborg is kept constantly engaged sustaining the fire-hose pressure of trhe composer’s romantic fleuve. The work has the air of the much later Glazunov Violin Concerto with ardour cooling for the Bruch-style central episode. It is stepped up again in a flutter of Massenet and Tchaikovsky in the final silvery-iridescent Vivace. 

The Suite for violin and orchestra is in five baroque-titled movements. The titles may be baroque but there is little of the neo-baroque in this. Raff's spectacles are firmly romantic era although he does peer over them for the Minuetto and the Aria both of which have a slightly stronger flavour of the baroque era. The final moto perpetuo  looks towards Leipzig and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and octet, to Lange-Muller and further forward to Sibelius's Humoresques. 

Raff wrote sixteen works for solo violin between 1853 and 1882. Of these four were full concertos written variously for Sarasate, David, Vieuxtemps and Joachim. The singing of the 1870 First Concerto op. 161 is irresistibly bound up with the concertos by Bruch and Tchaikovsky. The pressure on the soloist rarely lets up. Ringborg with his saturated fleshy tone squares up to the challenge and does so with affirmative success. It is interesting to note one or two pre-echoes of the Elgar concerto as well. Only the allegro trionfale strikes a false note in its triumphant Imperial pomp.

For years the First Concerto was known only in the version by August Wilhelmj. The present recording uses Raff's only original edition rescued by chance by the Sibley Library at the Eastman School of Music. 

All three of these rare works are luminously recorded and performed and as usual they are spectacularly well documented. Don't hesitate if your taste is for the romantic violin concerto in the heritage of Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.

Rob Barnett


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